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March 27, 2017

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Cell phones and the Internet are playing a crucial role in telling the world about Myanmar's pro-dem

At the Democratic Voice of Burma, Naing, a mild-mannered former dentistry student, said new technologies are crucial, although he declined to give details about exactly how his 30 to 40 "undercover reporters" inside Myanmar get news out. Journalists working openly could be arrested.

"We don't want to say too much about how we use the Internet. They must know we use it, but we don't want to draw too much attention," he said. "Mobile phones are essential. Mobile phones are the way they can report from the ground. This morning (the military) cut off some mobile phones, so we can't get a hold of some of our people."

Brossel said the junta was trying to staunch the flow of information by slowing Internet connections and cutting cell phone service.

Slow Internet connections on Wednesday made it hard to send photos and videos, Brossel said. Many Internet cafes - the main online providers in a country where few can go online at home - were closed, he said.

But Brossel said the opposition was fighting back with satellite telephones, which can bypass censors, firewalls and other restrictions.

Communication inside the country is also important, said Aung Din, Policy Director with the U.S. Campaign for Burma in Washington D.C.

"Students use cell phones to SMS each other to share information," he said, referring to text messages activists use to set up demonstrations or tell each other where soldiers are. "They also know how to take pictures and video with their phones, then download those and send them on the Internet," Din said.

Cell phones, although often confiscated, have proven invaluable, said Soe Aung, a spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma, a coalition of opposition groups based in Thailand.

Mary Callahan, a Myanmar expert at the University of Washington, said by e-mail that "In 1988, it was relatively simple for the military to shut down railroads, set up road checkpoints and cut phone lines, which made it quite difficult for protesters to organize. Now, of course, protesters can use both the Internet and cell phones to mobilize support internally and externally."

Din agreed, saying, "The junta can't control the technology totally, and it's a huge difference to deliver the information fast."

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